Human Acts

A Novel
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From the internationally bestselling author of The Vegetarian, a “rare and astonishing” (The Observer) portrait of political unrest and the universal struggle for justice.

In the midst of a violent student uprising in South Korea, a young boy named Dong-ho is shockingly killed.
 
The story of this tragic episode unfolds in a sequence of interconnected chapters as the victims and the bereaved encounter suppression, denial, and the echoing agony of the massacre. From Dong-ho’s best friend who meets his own fateful end; to an editor struggling against censorship; to a prisoner and a factory worker, each suffering from traumatic memories; and to Dong-ho's own grief-stricken mother; and through their collective heartbreak and acts of hope is the tale of a brutalized people in search of a voice.
 
An award-winning, controversial bestseller, Human Acts is a timeless, pointillist portrait of an historic event with reverberations still being felt today, by turns tracing the harsh reality of oppression and the resounding, extraordinary poetry of humanity.

Shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award
Amazon
, 100 Best Books of 2017
The Atlantic, “The Best Books We Read in 2017”
San Francisco Chronicle, “Best of 2017: 100 Recommended Books”
NPR Book Concierge, 2017’s Great Reads
Library Journal, “Best Books of 2017”
Huffington Post, “Best Fiction Books of 2017”
Medium, Kong Tsung-gan’s “Best Human Rights Books of 2017”

Praise

"Compulsively readable, universally relevant and deeply resonant... It lacerates, it haunts, it dreams, it mourns... ‘Human Acts’ is, in equal parts, beautiful and urgent."—New York Times Book Review

Human Acts is unique in the intensity and scale of this brutality… [T]he novel details a bloody history that was deliberately forgotten and is only now being recovered.”—The Nation 

"[Han Kang's] new novel, Human Acts, showcases the same talent for writing about corporeal horrors, this time in the context of the 1980 Gwangju uprising.”—TIME Magazine

“Han Kang’s Human Acts speak the unspeakable.” —Vanity Fair
 
“The long wake of the killings plays out across the testimonies of survivors as well as the dead, in scenarios both gorily real and beautifully surreal.”—Vulture

"Human Acts is stunning. Book reviews evaluate how well a book does what it sets out to do, and so we sometimes write nice things about books that perfectly fulfill trivial aims. Otherwise, we'd always be complaining that romance novels or political thrillers fail to justify the ways of God to men. But Han Kang has an ambition as large as Milton's struggle with God: She wants to reconcile the ways of humanity to itself.”—NPR.org
 
 “Engrossing… The result is torturously compelling, a relentless portrait of death and agony that never lets you look away. Han’s prose—as translated by Deborah Smith—is both spare and dreamy, full of haunting images and echoing language. She mesmerizes, drawing you into the horrors of Gwangju; questioning humanity, implicating everyone… Unnerving and painfully immediate.”—Los Angeles Times
 
 “Revelatory … nothing short of breathtaking… In the end, what Han has re-created is not just an extraordinary record of human suffering during one particularly contentious period in Korean history, but also a written testament to our willingness to risk discomfort, capture, even death in order to fight for a cause or help others in times of need.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 
 “But where Kang excels is in her unflinching, unsentimental descriptions of death. I am hard pressed to think of another novel that deals so vividly and convincingly with the stages of physical decay. Kang’s prose does not make for easy reading, but there is something admirable about this clear-eyed rendering of the end of life.”—Boston Globe
 
 “Absorbing… Han uses her talents as a storyteller of subtlety and power to bring this struggle out of the middle distance of ‘history’ and into the intimate space of the irreplaceable human individual.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Kang explores the sprawling trauma of political brutality with impressive nuance and the piercing emotional truth that comes with masterful fiction... a fiercely written, deeply upsetting, and beautifully human novel.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Kang is an incredible storyteller who raises questions about the purpose of humanity and the constant tension between good and evil through the heartbreaking experiences of her characters. Her poetic language shifts fluidly from different points of view, while her fearless use of raw, austere diction emulates the harsh conflicts and emotions raging throughout the plot. This jarring portrayal of the Gwangju demonstrations will keep readers gripped until the end.”—Booklist (starred)
 
“With Han Kang’s The Vegetarian awarded the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, her follow-up will garner extra scrutiny. Bottom line? This new work, again seamlessly translated by Deborah Smith, who also provides an indispensable contextual introduction, is even more stupendous.”Library Journal (starred)

"Pristine, expertly paced, and gut-wrenching… Human Acts grapples with the fallout of a massacre and questions what humans are willing to die for and in turn what they must live through. Kang approaches these difficult and inexorable queries with originality and fearlessness, making Human Acts a must-read for 2017."—Chicago Review of Books
 
 “Though her subject matter is terrifying, her prose is too beautiful, her images too perfectly crystallized to wince and turn away from them… ‘Human Acts’ is a slim novel weighted with philosophical and spiritual inquiry, but if offers no consolations. Rather, it grapples with who we are, what we are able to endure, and what we inflict upon other people…”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch  
 
“Kang interconnects the chapters in her novel to focus on characters who are irreparably affected by the historic Gwangju Uprising in South Korea in May 1980, in which government troops killed an estimated 600 protesters. The Guardian calls it ‘an act of unflinching witness.’”—Sacramento Bee  
 
“Reading about human acts like these can be excruciating. But true to the urgency conveyed through its frequent use of second-person narration, Han’s book is also filled with human acts involving profiles in courage that inspire hope… In a novel whose heroes include editors, actors and writers—each battling to remember while censors try to forget—Han’s own book embodies the miracle this passage describes.”—Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel   
 
“Following The Vegetarian, one of the most stunning novels of 2016, Human Acts is yet another belatedly translated work from South Korean writer Han Kang. Centering on the killing of a young boy during a student uprising, the novel follows the rippling effects of the tragedy.”—Huffington Post
 
“[E]xquisitely crafted.”—O, the Oprah Magazine

“After dazzling us with The Vegetarian, which won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, Han Kang is dropping another amazing read. Set in South Korea in 1980, in the wake of a student protest turned horrifically violent, the book follows a cast of characters as they deal with the harrowing consequences of that day.”—Bustle

"...Inventive, intense and provocative...a work of considerable bravery...'Human Acts' is a profound act of protest in itself."—Newsday
 
“Kang’s forthcoming Human Acts focuses on the 1980 Korean Gwangju Uprising, when Gwangju locals took up arms in retaliation for the massacre of university students who were protesting. Within Kang tries to unknot ‘two unsolvable riddles’ — the intermingling of two innately human yet disparate tendencies, the capacity for cruelty alongside that for selflessness and dignity.” —The Millions
 
“This novel is a thoughtful and humane answer to difficult questions and a moving tribute to victims of the atrocity.”—BookPage  
 
“South Korean novelist Han first gained attention stateside with The Vegetarian, her first novel to be translated into English, last year. This follow-up novel follows a group of people who are affected both directly and indirectly by the death of a young boy during a violent student protest in South Korea.”—Men’s Journal (online)
 
“Han Kang made a big splash last year with The Vegetarian. Using several points of view to delve into the death of one adolescent boy during the Gwangju Uprising, Human Acts will surely continue Kang’s praise among critics and readers… Human Acts ruthlessly examines what people are capable of doing to one another, but also considers how the value of one life can affect many.”—Book Riot
 
“Han Kang’s first novel to appear in English, The Vegetarian, was one of the most jarring works of fiction we’ve read in a while. Human Acts takes a broader view of humanity, focusing on a host of reactions to the death of a young man in a political action in South Korea. We’re looking forward to experiencing her prose in a new context with this novel.”—Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"Human Acts is elegantly written, unflinchingly brutal and absolutely real. It is not so much a novel as it is a profound act of connection; it is beyond powerful. Han Kang is what most writers spend their lives trying to be: a fearless, unsentimental teller of human truths."—Lisa McInerney, Baileys Women's Prize-winning author of The Glorious Heresies

“This is a book that could easily founder under the weight of its subject matter. Neither inviting nor shying away from modern-day parallels, Han neatly unpacks the social and political catalysts behind the massacre and maps its lengthy, toxic fallout. But what is remarkable is how she accomplishes this while still making it a novel of blood and bone. The characters frequently address themselves to an unnamed “You”… This sense of dislocation is most obvious when a dead boy’s soul converses with his own rotting flesh – and it’s here that the language comes closest to the gothic lyricism of Han’s previous book, The Vegetarian…By choosing the novel as her form, then allowing it to do what it does best – take readers to the very centre of a life that is not their own – Han prepares us for one of the most important questions of our times: “What is humanity? What do we have to do to keep humanity as one thing and not another?” She never answers, but this act of unflinching witness seems as good a place to start as any.”—Eimear McBride, The Guardian 

"Harrowing...Han’s novel is an attempt to verbalize something unspeakable… But she humanizes the terrible violence by focusing on the more mundane aspects: tending and transporting bodies, or attempting to work an ordinary job years later. And by placing the reader in the wake of Dong-ho’s memory, preserved by his family and friends, Han has given a voice to those who were lost.”—Publishers Weekly

“With exquisitely controlled eloquence, the novel chronicles the tragedy of ordinariness violated…In the echo chambers of Han’s haunting prose, precisely and poetically rendered by Smith, the sound of that heartbeat resonates with defiant humanity.”—New Statesman

“Han Kang’s writing is clear and controlled and she handles the explosive, horrifying subject matter with great warmth.”—The Times

Searing…In Human Acts  [Kang] captures the paradox of being human: the meat-like, animal reduction of our humanity—the dead bodies of the beginning chapter – alongside our ability to love and suffer for our principles, and die for them, that make us truly human. She is excellent in summarizing this paradox… If it hopes to tie the personal with the political, it does the former so much more powerfully: a mother thinking of her dead son, for example, displays literary mastery – as subtle and specific as it is universally heartbreaking.”—The Independent

“A technical and emotional triumph... A conversation of which we rarely hear both sides: the living talking to the dead, and the dead speaking back.”—The Sunday Telegraph (5 star review)

“A grim but heartfelt performance, touching on the possibility of forgiveness and the survival of the spirit.”—The Sunday Times

“Harrowing…Human Acts portrays people whose self-determination is under threat from terrifying external forces; it is a sobering meditation on what it means to be human.”—Financial Times
“A harrowing journey… By its very existence Human Acts is an important and necessary book…Astonishing.”—The National

"Human Acts is a stunning piece of work. The language is poetic, immediate, and brutal. Han Kang has again proved herself to be a deft artist of storytelling and imagery." — Jess Richards

“A rare and astonishing book, sensitively translated by Deborah Smith, Human Acts enrages, impassions, and most importantly, gives voices back to who were silenced” —The Observer (UK)

Excerpt

The Boy, 1980

Looks like rain,” you mutter to yourself.

What’ll we do if it really chucks it down?

You open your eyes so that only a slender chink of light seeps in, and peer at the gingko trees in front of the Provincial Office. As though there, between those branches, the wind is about to take on visible form. As though the raindrops suspended in the air, held breath before the plunge, are on the cusp of trembling down, glittering like jewels.

When you open your eyes properly, the trees’ outlines dim and blur. You’re going to need glasses before long. This thought gets briefly disturbed by the whooping and applause that breaks out from the direction of the fountain. Perhaps your sight’s as bad now as it’s going to get, and you’ll be able to get away without glasses after all?

“Listen to me if you know what’s good for you: come back home, right this minute.”

You shake your head, trying to rid yourself of the memory, the anger lacing your brother’s voice. From the speakers in front of the fountain comes the clear, crisp voice of the young woman holding the microphone. You can’t see the fountain from where you’re sitting, on the steps leading up to the municipal gymnasium. You’d have to go around to the right of the building if you wanted to have even a distant view of the memorial service. Instead, you resolve to stay where you are, and simply listen.

“Brothers and sisters, our loved ones are being brought here today from the Red Cross hospital.”

The woman then leads the crowd gathered in the square in a chorus of the national anthem. Her voice is soon lost in the multitude, thousands of voices piling up on top of one another, a soaring tower of sound rearing up into the sky. The melody surges to a peak, only to swing down again like a pendulum. The low murmur of your own voice is barely audible.

This morning, when you asked how many dead were being transferred from the Red Cross hospital today, Jin-su’s reply was no more elaborate than it needed to be: thirty. While the leaden mass of the anthem’s refrain rises and falls, rises and falls, thirty coffins will be lifted down from the truck, one by one. They will be placed in a row next to the twenty-eight that you and Jin-su laid out this morning, the line stretching all the way from the gym to the fountain. Before yesterday evening, twenty-six of the eighty-three coffins hadn’t yet been brought out for a group memorial service; yesterday evening this number had grown to twenty-eight, when two families had appeared and each identified a corpse. These were then placed in coffins, with a necessarily hasty and improvised version of the usual rites. After making a note of their names and coffin numbers in your ledger, you added “group memorial service” in parentheses; Jin-su had asked you to make a clear record of which coffins had already gone through the service, to prevent the same ones being brought out twice. You’d wanted to go and watch, just this one time, but he told you to stay at the gym.

“Someone might come looking for a relative while the service is going on. We need someone manning the doors.”

The others you’ve been working with, all of them older than you, have gone to the service. Black ribbons pinned to the left-hand side of their chests, the bereaved who have kept vigil for several nights in front of the coffins now follow them in a slow, stiff procession, moving like scarecrows stuffed with sand or rags. Eun-sook had been hanging back, and when you told her, “It’s okay, go with them,” her laughter revealed a snaggle-tooth. Whenever an awkward situation forced a nervous laugh from her, that tooth couldn’t help but make her look somewhat mischievous.

“I’ll just watch the beginning, then, and come right back.”

Left on your own, you sit down on the steps that lead up to the gym, resting the ledger, an improvised thing whose cover is a piece of black strawboard bent down the middle, on your knee. The chill from the concrete steps leaches through your thin tracksuit bottoms. Your PE jacket is buttoned up to the top, and you keep your arms firmly folded across your chest.

Hibiscus and three thousand ri full of splendid mountains and rivers . . . 

You stop singing along with the anthem. That phrase “splendid mountains and rivers” makes you think of the second character in “splendid,” “ryeo,” one of the ones you studied in your Chinese script lessons. It’s got an unusually high stroke count; you doubt you could remember how to write it now. Does it mean “mountains and rivers where the flowers are splendid,” or “mountains and rivers that are splendid as flowers”? In your mind, the image of the written character becomes overlaid with that of hollyhocks, the kind that grow in your parents’ yard, shooting up taller than you in summer. Long, stiff stems, their blossoms unfurling like little scraps of white cloth. You close your eyes to help you picture them more clearly. When you let your eyelids part just the tiniest fraction, the gingko trees in front of the Provincial Office are shaking in the wind. So far, not a single drop of rain has fallen.

The anthem is over, but there seems to be some delay with the coffins. Perhaps there are just too many. The sound of wailing sobs is faintly audible amid the general commotion. The woman holding the microphone suggests they all sing “Arirang” while they wait for the coffins to be got ready.

You who abandoned me here

Your feet will pain you before you’ve gone even ten ri . . . 

When the song subsides, the woman says, “Let us now hold a minute’s silence for the deceased.” The hubbub of a crowd of thousands dies down as instantaneously as if someone had pressed a mute button, and the silence it leaves in its wake seems shockingly stark. You get to your feet to observe the minute’s silence, then walk up the steps to the main doors, one half of which has been left open. You get your surgical mask out from your trouser pocket and put it on.

These candles are no use at all.

You step into the gym hall, fighting down the wave of nausea that hits you with the stench. It’s the middle of the day, but the dim interior is more like evening’s dusky half-light. The coffins that have already been through the memorial service have been grouped neatly near the door, while at the foot of the large window, each covered with a white cloth, lie the bodies of thirty-two people for whom no relatives have yet arrived to put them in their coffins. Next to each of their heads, a candle wedged into an empty drinks bottle flickers quietly.

You walk farther into the auditorium, toward the row of seven corpses that have been laid out to one side. Whereas the others have their cloths pulled up only to their throats, almost as though they are sleeping, these are all fully covered. Their faces are revealed only occasionally, when someone comes looking for a young girl or a baby. The sight of them is too cruel to be inflicted otherwise.

Even among these, there are differing degrees of horror, the worst being the corpse in the very farthest corner. When you first saw her, she was still recognizably a smallish woman in her late teens or early twenties; now, her decomposing body has bloated to the size of a grown man. Every time you pull back the cloth for someone who has come to find a daughter or younger sister, the sheer rate of decomposition stuns you. Stab wounds slash down from her forehead to her left eye, her cheekbone to her jaw, her left breast to her armpit, gaping gashes where the raw flesh shows through. The right side of her skull has completely caved in, seemingly the work of a club, and the meat of her brain is visible. These open wounds were the first to rot, followed by the many bruises on her battered corpse. Her toes, with their clear pedicure, were initially intact, with no external injuries, but as time passed they swelled up like thick tubers of ginger, turning black in the process. The pleated skirt with its pattern of water droplets, which used to come down to her shins, doesn’t even cover her swollen knees now.

You come back to the table by the door to get some new candles from the box, then return to the body in the corner. You light the cloth wicks of the new candle from the melted stub guttering by the corpse. Once the flame catches, you blow out the dying candle and remove it from the glass bottle, then insert the new one in its place, careful not to burn yourself.

Your fingers clutching the still-warm candle stub, you bend down. Fighting the putrid stink, you look deep into the heart of the new flame. Its translucent edges flicker in constant motion, supposedly burning up the smell of death that hangs like a pall in the room. There’s something bewitching about the bright orange glow at its heart, its heat evident to the eye. Narrowing your gaze even further, you center in on the tiny blue-tinged core that clasps the wick, its trembling shape recalling that of a heart, or perhaps an apple seed.

You straighten up, unable to stand the smell any longer. Looking around the dim interior, you drag your gaze lingeringly past each candle as it wavers by the side of a corpse, the pupils of quiet eyes.

Suddenly it occurs to you to wonder, when the body dies, what happens to the soul? How long does it linger by the side of its former home?

You give the room a thorough once-over, making sure there are no other candles that need to be changed, and walk toward the door.

When a living person looks at a dead person, mightn’t the person’s soul also be there by its body’s side, looking down at its own face?

Just before you step outside, you turn and look back over your shoulder. There are no souls here. There are only silenced corpses, and that horrific putrid stink. 

At first, the bodies had been housed not in the gymnasium, but in the corridor of the complaints department in the Provincial Office. There were two women, both a few years older than you, one wearing a wide-collared school uniform and the other in ordinary clothes. You stared blankly, forgetting for a moment why you’d come, as they wiped the bloodied faces with a damp cloth and struggled to straighten the stiff arms, to force them down by the corpses’ sides.

“Can I help you?” the woman in school uniform asked, pulling her mask down below her mouth as she turned to face you. Her round eyes were her best feature, though ever-so-slightly protruding, and her hair was divided into two braids, from which a mass of short, frizzy hairs were escaping. Damp with sweat, her hair was plastered to her forehead and temples.

“I’m looking for a friend,” you said, holding out the hand that you’d been using to cover your nose, unused to the stench of blood.

“Did you arrange to meet here?”

“No, he’s one of those . . .”

“I see. You can come and have a look, if you like.”

You systematically examined the faces and bodies of the twenty-odd people lying against the corridor wall. You had to look closely if you wanted to be sure; your eyes soon started to feel the strain, and you had to keep blinking to try and refocus.

“Not here?” the other woman asked, straightening up. She had the sleeves of her pale green shirt rolled up to the elbows. You’d assumed she was a similar age to the young woman in school uniform; seeing her without the mask on, though, you could see she was older, more like twenty. Her skin was somewhat sallow, and she had a slender, delicate neck. Only the look in her eyes was tough and vigorous. And there was nothing feeble about her voice.

“No.”

“Have you tried the mortuary at Jeonnam, and the one at the Red Cross hospital?”

“Yes.”

“What about this friend’s parents?”

“His mother passed away, and his father works in Daejeon; he lives in our annex with his older sister.”

“They still won’t put long-distance calls through?”

“No, and I’ve tried a few times.”

“Well, what about your friend’s sister?”

“She hasn’t been home since Sunday; I came here to look for her, too. One of our neighbors said they saw my friend get hit yesterday, when the soldiers were shooting.”

“Mightn’t he just have been wounded and admitted to hospital?” the woman in school uniform interjected, without looking up.

You shook your head.

“In that case he would have found a way to call us. He’d know we were worrying about him.”

“Come by again tomorrow, and the next couple of days,” said the woman in the pale green shirt. “Apparently all the dead will be brought here from now on. They say there’s no room left in the morgues.”

The woman in school uniform wiped the face of a young man whose throat had been sliced open by a bayonet, his red uvula poking out. She brushed the palm of her hand down over his staring eyes, closing them, rinsed the cloth in a bucket of water, and wrung it out viciously. The water that came out was dark with blood, splattering outside the bucket. The woman in the green shirt stood up.

“How about you give us a hand, if you have time?” she asked. “Just for today. We don’t have enough people. It’s not difficult . . . you just need to cut up that cloth over there and use it to cover the bodies. And when someone comes looking for a friend, like you did, you uncover them again. The faces are badly injured, so they’ll need to get a good look at their bodies and clothes to decide whether it’s who they think it is.”

From that day on, you became one of the team. Eun-sook, as you’d guessed, was in her final year of high school. Seon-ju, the woman in the green shirt, was a machinist at a dressmaker’s on the main shopping street; she’d been left in the lurch when the boss had decided that he and his son, who’d been studying at one of the universities here, should go and stay with a relative outside the city. Both Eun-sook and Seon-ju had gone to give blood at Jeonnam University Hospital after hearing a street broadcast saying that people were dying of blood loss. There, hearing that the Provincial Office, now being run by civilians, was short of hands, and in the confusion of the moment, they’d taken on the task of dealing with the corpses.

Q & A

A Conversation with
Han Kang,
Man Booker International Prize–winning
author of The Vegetarian
and Human Acts
(Available in paperback October 17, 2017)

You were born in Gwangju, where the massacre in Human Acts occurs. How did it impact you when you were growing up?
 
I was born in Gwangju and moved up to Seoul with my family when I was nine, hardly four months before the massacre. We had moved purely by chance and because of this seemingly minor decision we remained unscathed. That fact became a kind of survivor’s guilt and troubled my family for a long time. I was twelve when I first saw a photo book, produced and circulated in secret, to bear witness to the massacre. My father had brought it back with him after visiting Gwangju. After it had been passed around the adults, it was hidden away in a bookcase, spine facing backward. I opened it unwittingly, having no idea what it contained. I was too young to know how to receive the proof of overwhelming violence that was contained in those pages. How could human beings do such things to one another? On the heels of this first question, another swiftly followed: What can we do in the face of such violence? In that way, I was presented with two unsolvable riddles—that of human violence and that of human dignity, stamped on my heart like a seal.
 
 
Why did you decide to write about the massacre?
 
I can say the massacre had a significant influence on my writing. The questions about being human had been a sort of homework for me. I had to penetrate the incident, at a moment in the winter of 2012, to go on with my writing. People seem to regard Human Acts as a huge transformation in my writing career but for me, this novel is closely connected to my previous novels. Human Acts is an attempt to answer the questions that had utmost importance to me.
 
 
How did you develop the different characters in Human Acts?
 
I read the materials about May 1980 for some months. These characters are not exactly connected to people who exist(ed). However, you could say that almost all the things that happen in this book are inspired by reality. I wanted to dedicate this book to the boy who didn’t make it through the spring. Then I imagined the survivors who have remembered him and called him. I wanted to lend them my sensation and life.
 
 
You’ve been writing for years, in different genres, and won numerous prizes in South Korea. What’s the difference for you between writing, for example, poetry and fiction?
 
For me, poetry, short stories, and novels are all closely intertwined. My first poetry collection was published a couple of years ago. Out of the hundred-plus poems I’d written, I chose sixty and arranged them into five sections; I was able to discern a similar feeling uniting those poems, which were written while I was also writing a particular novel. Of course these poems are independent from my prose fiction, but they had undoubtedly been influenced by the same questions and emotions that I’d lived with, and the images that had absorbed me while I was writing my novels. This process is extremely personal and intuitive, and so it isn’t easy to clarify. I can just say that a poem’s deepest connection is to language. It will come to me as a single line, which usually forms the beginning of the poem but sometimes ends up in the middle or at the end. These intuitive flashes find their way to me whenever I’m unwell or have to move house, when the flow of my life is interrupted by the trivial or the significant.
 
 
Do you find yourself returning to similar themes in your work?
 
In some ways I feel that I keep pushing my life forward little by little as I finish one novel and go on to the next. After just managing to complete the questions I had been holding onto in one novel, I move on to the next novel, the next questions, the next step in life. Sometimes I return to a similar theme, as I did when I wrote Human Acts after The Vegetarian. The two novels don’t seem to bear any external relation, but I can see that there is a quiet internal connection between them.
 
 
You spent time during the summer of 2014 at the British Centre for Literary Translation’s summer school. What did you learn there? What have you found through the process of having your own work translated?
 
It was a great pleasure for me to participate in these sessions, and I truly enjoyed the time we spent together. I have been fascinated by the delicacy of language from a young age, and it is still an important art of what keeps me going as a writer. During these sessions, which progressed as slowly as possible, and with surprising patience, I felt great happiness in sharing this delicacy.
 
 
Did you always want to be a writer?
 
Yes, since I was fourteen.
 
 
You’ve had a remarkable year, including winning the Man Booker International Prize in May. How has the attention changed the way you write?
 
Hopefully nothing. I have lived a very personal life. I am writing slowly every day.
 
 
What are you working on now?
 
My new book was published in Korea last June, and will be out in the UK in November 2017. It isn’t easy to classify the book. It could be called a novella or a prose poem. Now I am working on my next novel. I don’t want to rush. I am writing slowly.

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